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Asako Tokuno
Asako Tokuno
Sacramento, CA
Asako Maida Tukuno was born in 1923 in Oakland, grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in Richmond, California. Her parents, Japanese immigrants, ran a successful flower nursery. She was a freshman at Berkeley in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Her parents were forced to leave the West Coast a few months later because Richmond was designated "Area A" by the West Coast Defense Command, and all Japanese aliens were evacuated. Asako and her two sisters stayed home to run the nursery as best they could, and managed to get all the flowers picked for the spring holidays before they were evacuated as well. The family was eventually sent to the relocation camp in Topaz, Utah.

In camp, she worked first as a nurse’s assistant and then in the camp’s personnel office. While she was there, a young man from Sacramento, Shiro Tokuno (younger brother of Tim Tokuno), whom she remembered from the Berkeley campus because he reminded her of Cary Grant, came into the office. He asked for a job application for the War Relief Association, which she typed for him. He then invited her to a New Year’s Eve dance. She wasn’t sure how much he liked her until he asked her to go to see Tarzan. at the camp’s movie theater, and to the delight of her parents, they began dating seriously. Shiro left the camp to work at the War Relief Association in Washington, DC, then was inducted into the Army in May of 1944, and sent to train at the Military Intelligence Service’s Japanese language school in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, along with many of her friends, Asako applied for a scholarship to go to college and get out of camp. She was accepted at Drake University, but her parents refused to allow her to leave, fearful that America at large might not be safe for Japanese Americans, that she might become a victim of mob violence. Her sister, a talented violinist, received a scholarship from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and in the summer of 1944, her parents relented. Her sister would be allowed to go if the other two daughters accompanied her to New York state. Soon thereafter, Shiro convinced Asako to join him in Minneapolis. When she arrived she learned that their parents had announced their engagement in the camp newspaper. They were married in February, 1945. A few months later, Shiro was sent to the Pacific, and after the war ended, Asako joined him in Japan, where he was serving with the occupation forces. They stayed in Japan for five years then came back to the United States, and eventually returned to Sacramento.